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Can I Get Cash Back With a Credit Card?

Rebecca Safier • September 19, 2023

Earning cash back on a credit card is a handy way to get money back on purchases you’re already making. Cash back credit cards offer rewards on your spending that you can redeem for cash, usually as a statement credit or direct deposit into your bank account.

For example, with a 2% cash back card, you’ll earn $2 for every $100 you spend. Some cash back cards also offer a generous welcome bonus if you spend a certain amount in the first few months of opening an account.

If you can pay off your credit card balance in full every month, you can reap cash back rewards without paying interest on your charges. Read on to learn how to get cash back with a credit card.

How do cash back credit cards work?

With cash back credit cards, you earn rewards on charge-eligible purchases that you can redeem as cash. Some cards offer a flat cash back rate on all purchases, while others offer different rates depending on where you shop. Some other cash back credit cards have rotating categories with earnings rates that change on a quarterly basis.

Not all credit card transactions earn cash back. For instance, you probably won’t earn cash back on interest charges, credit card fees, cash advances, or balance transfers. The same goes for unauthorized purchases or spending in certain restricted categories, like gambling-related costs or the purchase of wire transfers or traveler’s checks.1

Read over your cardholder agreement for the fine print on which purchases earn cash back and which don’t. By understanding how to get cash back with a credit card, you can maximize your card’s benefits.

Note: Don’t overspend for the sake of racking up cash back. Even the most generous rewards rates won’t offset an unaffordable credit card bill and the significant interest charges and fees that can come with rolling a balance over from month to month.

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Cash back vs. cash advance

While the terms cash back and cash advance sound similar (and both relate to credit cards), they are distinctly different. Cash back refers to the rewards you earn on your purchases and can be a savvy way to get money back on your everyday spending.

cash advance, on the other hand, involves borrowing money against your credit card’s line of credit. It’s basically a short-term loan from your credit card issuer and can come with significant fees and a higher APR than your card’s regular purchase APR.

The appeal of a cash advance is that you can access cash quickly by withdrawing it at an ATM using your credit card. But this cash advance loan will start accruing interest right away and is probably not the most affordable way to access funding.

Types of cash back cards

If you’re wondering, “Where can I get cash back from a credit card?” the answer depends on the card. Some cards offer a flat rate on all spending, whereas others offer better rates in certain categories, such as grocery stores and gas stations.

Here are a few types of credit cards you might encounter.

1. Flat-rate cash back cards

The most straightforward cash back cards offer a flat earnings rate on all your spending. For example, the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card offers 2% back on all purchases.2 Similarly, the Citi Double Cash Back Card offers 2% back in all categories — 1% when you make a purchase and another 1% when you pay it off.3 If you spent $1,500 on a credit card with a flat 2% cash back rate in a month, you could expect to earn $30 back.

2. Tiered reward cash back cards

Some cash back cards offer different rates in different spending categories, such as grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants, entertainment, streaming services, or travel.

The Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, for instance, offers 6% back at U.S. supermarkets for up to $6,000 in spending each year (then 1% back after that), as well as 6% back on certain streaming subscriptions, 3% back on transit and gas, and 1% back on other purchases.4 To give another example, the Capital One SavorOne Cash Rewards Credit Card earns 3% back on dining, entertainment, streaming services, and grocery stores and 1% back on all other purchases.5

A cash back card with tiered rewards may appeal if you want to maximize your rewards in certain categories over others.

3. Rotating categories cash back cards

Finally, some credit cards offer different rates in select categories that rotate on a quarterly basis. The Discover it® Cash Back Card earns 5% cash back on purchases in different categories each quarter up to $1,500 in spending, then 1% back after that (and an unlimited 1% on all other purchases).6

Some cards with rotating categories offer higher earnings rates automatically, while others require you to activate your offers. Some also let you choose your bonus categories, like the U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card. With this card, you can choose from a list of categories each quarter to activate 5% back on up to $2,000 in combined spending. You can also select a category to earn 2% back on and will earn 1% on all other purchases.7

Since these cards have a more complex earnings system, they may require more attention from you to make the most of your rewards each period.

5 ways to use cash back on a credit card

You can redeem your cash back rewards on a credit card in several ways, though the options may differ by card. Here’s how to use cash back on a credit card:

  1. Request direct deposit into your bank account. You can often transfer your cash back into a linked bank account.
  2. Ask for a paper check. Some credit card companies will mail you a paper check, though this option is slower than direct deposit.
  3. Redeem your rewards as a statement credit. You may be able to apply your cash back to the balance on your credit card statement.
  4. Exchange your cash back for gift cards. Some credit card issuers allow you to redeem your cash back for gift cards at popular retailers. Make sure your points will still be worth as much as they would be if you redeemed them for cash. Otherwise, this option may be less valuable than it seems.
  5. Use your rewards to make purchases online. You may also be able to use your points when checking out at certain retailers or booking travel through your credit card company’s travel portal.

How to get a cash back credit card

A cash back credit card may be a worthwhile addition to your wallet since it can earn you money back on purchases you already make. There are various kinds of cash back cards, so review the rewards structure carefully to see which would best fit your spending habits.

If you’d like to maximize your earnings in certain categories, like groceries, restaurants, or gas, a card with tiered rewards or rotating categories might be a smart choice. A flat-rate cash back card could be the better option if you’d prefer a more hands-off approach where you don’t have to think about differing rates.

Submit your application on the provider’s website to apply for a cash back card. You’ll be asked for your personal details, such as your name, address, income, and employment information. After applying, the company may run a hard inquiry on your credit.

You may be wondering, can you get cash back with a credit card with a weak credit score? Unfortunately, you may have trouble qualifying since most cash back cards require you to have good or excellent credit. In this case, you may want to improve your credit before applying for a cash back card.

When you apply online, it’s possible to get an instant decision, and you may receive your new card in the mail in one to two weeks. For a closer look at the process, head to our guide on how to apply for a credit card in seven easy steps.

Chime® is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services are provided by The Bancorp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank, N.A., Members FDIC. The Chime Visa® Debit Card and the Chime Credit Builder Visa® Credit Card are issued by The Bancorp Bank, N.A. or Stride Bank pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. and may be used everywhere Visa debit and credit cards are accepted. Please see the back of your Card for its issuing bank.

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1 Information from Creditcards.com's "Do all purchases count when racking up rewards?" as of September 8, 2023: https://www.creditcards.com/education/all-purchase-count-rewards/

2 Information from Wells Fargo's Active Cash Card as of September 8, 2023: https://creditcards.wellsfargo.com/active-cash-credit-card/

3 Information from Citi's Double Cash Credit Card as of September 8, 2023: https://www.citi.com/credit-cards/citi-double-cash-credit-card

4 Information from American Express's Blue Cash Preferred Card as of September 8, 2023: https://www.americanexpress.com/us/credit-cards/card/blue-cash-preferred/

5 Information from Capital One's SavorOne Rewards from Capital One as of September 8, 2023: https://www.capitalone.com/credit-cards/savorone-dining-rewards/

6 Information from Discover's Discover it Cash Back Credit Card as of September 8, 2023: https://www.discover.com/credit-cards/cash-back/it-card.html

7 Information from U.S. Bank's U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa as of September 8, 2023: https://cashplus.usbank.com/

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